Be a Citizen Scientist: Join the Great Sunflower Project

Do you have 15 minutes to spare? If so, you can be a citizen scientist. Over the past few years, citizen scientists — ordinary people who help scientists and organizations track the count and behaviors of such creatures as birds, butterflies, bees and others — have been active and helpful information gatherers. After all, researchers can’t be everywhere, and many of us have habitats in our backyards and neighborhoods that can help others gain important information about nature.

And, if that isn’t enough, citizen science makes a fun family or classroom activity, getting naturalists of all ages and abilities  outdoors together and providing them with something to do and a way to feel helpful and a part of the Earth’s larger ecosystem. Don’t let the name intimidate you. All you need to participate in citizen science is the desire to observe nature to the best of your ability for a period of time and record what you see.

Scientist Gretchen LeBuhn, of the San Francisco Bay Area, hopes to get thousands of people counting this weekend through her Great Sunflower Project. You can count bees on sunflowers, bee balm, cosmos, rosemary, tickseed, and purple coneflower. The instructions on the site are very easy to follow and complete.

Pollinators (a group in which bees are in important member) affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, studies have shown. In recent years, bee populations have declined so drastically, due to climate and environmental change, that scientists are struggling to understand and reverse what they call  “colony collapse disorder”.

Us citizen scientists can help identify where native bee populations are doing well and where they’re doing poorly. Even if you can’t help this weekend, planting sunflowers or other bee-friendly flowers can help the bee population in your area.

The Great Sunflower Project takes place July 16 this year. (Updated for 2013: The Great Sunflower Project is August 17, but you can participate any time.) There are lots of other great citizen science projects. Some are event-based and others are ongoing.

These include:

The Great Sunflower Project
Project Feeder Watch
The Great Backyard Bird Count
Lost Ladybug Project
Monarch Watch
Firefly Watch
Frog Watch USA
National Wildlife Federation‘s Wildlife Watch
Ice Watch
Acoustic Bat Monitoring
Hummingbird Migration Map
Project Budburst
Project Squirrel
The Weather Observer Program
NASA Meteor Count
Snow Tweets

Still looking for more fun citizen science projects? Check out SciStarter or Cornell’s Citizen Science Central.


Have fun!

You might also enjoy:

Have Fun Attracting Bees, Butterflies and Birds

2010 Great Backyard Bird Count

Read Join Project Feeder Watch

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman



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10 responses to “Be a Citizen Scientist: Join the Great Sunflower Project

  1. As an avid gardener I can fully appreciate what those little creatures do. In fact, I have a row of ice plant running along (2 ft wide) the length of my yard. Ice plant flowers are favored by bees. Will be happy to plant more.

    • Hey there, Mama Roses! Great to see you. It’s so wonderful that you have bee-loving ice plant and, obviously, a healthy local ecosystem. Knowing that was one of my rewards of counting bees yesterday. (I got one each 5 minutes, which is slightly above average, and I have a tiny deck garden.) It was also great fun to really watch a bee do its work/magic! I since read that bees are responsible for 1/3 of our food. Amazing!

      Thanks again for popping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Sunflowers are my favorites! Love your photos… especially with the bee!

    • Hey there! Thank you so much. I know you’re a terrific sunflower grower. I bet you’re doing your part – and then some – to help the bee population, in addition to enjoying wonderful, cheery flowers.

      Glad you stopped by, Weekend Cowgirl! Always great to connect.

  3. We love the Great Sunflower Project!
    If your readers are interested in learning more about hundreds of other citizen science projects, we’ve made it fairly easy to do so via a searchable database of projects on .
    We hope there’s something for everyone!

  4. Hi Darlene! Thank you so much for stopping in to say hi and for that great link. You’re right – there is something for everyone! I will add it to the article. Thanks again.

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